Front Lines - Secret Wars 2 and Convergence Week 6 (Part 1 of 2)

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by Michael Maillaro, Michael Weaver, and Guest Writer Graham “Grey” Scherl

Front Lines is Critical Blast’s weekly roundup of all the Convergence and Secret Wars action going on.  We do this so you don’t have to.

You’re welcome!  

Special thanks this week to Grey who jumped in to help out with our main reviews!

Secret Wars #2 by Jonathan Hickman and Esad Rubic

Summary: After last issue’s destruction of the Marvel multiverse, this issue starts with a young man looking to lift Thor’s hammer and prove himself worthy.  He is successful and is made part of a large corps of Thors who serve their God Emperor of Doom!

This new Thor is from a country called Higher Avalon on a world called Battleworld.  The people here believe that Doom has created this world, though there is some evidence that this is a lie.  This world is made up of several different lands led by barons. The borders of these lands are very strict.

Some of Doom’s men (including Alex Powers, Dragon Man, and some Moloids) have found a tunnel leading under Battleworld.  When they reach bottom, gravity seems to flip over.   The land seems to be made of giant statues of people...including one that looks vaguely like Captain America. While in this underworld, they encounter the life raft that left 616 Earth at the end of issue 1.

Back on the surface, the Thors go to Bar Sinister, a land ruled by Mister Sinister.  He is being accused of crimes against Higher Avalon, a land ruled by Jamie Braddock. Sinister is brought before Doom and his closest advisors (Dr Strange, Sue Storm, and Valeria).  Sinister is found guilty, but demands trial by combat against Brian Braddock, the baron’s brother.  SInister uses his powers to defeat Brian.  He tries to finish Brian off, but Doom prevents it.

Doom reveals that Higher Avalon is where a group of rebels are hiding out in a place called The Silent Chamber.  He believes Brian is behind this, but it turns out that its Jamie Braddock instead.  Doom wants to destroy the entire family for Jamie’s crimes, but Doom’s wife Sue asks him to be merciful.  Instead, he just tosses Jamie over the shield wall, which keeps Ultrons, Zombies, and symbiotes from Battleworld.

Strange sends Thors to quarantine the life raft. The raft opens up and the Cabal is revealed as having survived the end of the multiverse.

Maillaro: I will say upfront, I did like this issue more than the first.  It was kind of fun to see what the Marvel universe would look like if Doom had complete control of shaping the world whatever way he wanted.  He had his own Thor police force, with clearly defined borders and laws.  But, I have to assume there is more at work here than “Doom built this.”  I can’t imagine he would have been all that worried about building a section for Sinister, Captain Britain, etc.  And it was strange he needed a wall to protect him from all the bad things lurking around the multiverse.  Zombies, Ultrons, etc.

Grey: I dug the issue more from page one than I did the previous issue, but then again, this issue actually felt like Secret Wars and not an epilogue to Time Runs Out. One thing I really liked though, concerning God Emperor Doom, is it totally feels like the endgame for the Doom that Hickman was writing back in F4/FF a few years back.

Maillaro: That makes a lot of sense, really.  My favorite moment in this book was when the Cabal stepped out of the Liferaft...killed off the closest Thor and then asked out loud, “Hey, where are we?”  It just fit the characters so perfectly.  I don’t know if that was supposed to be funny, but it did make me laugh.

I was also a little disturbed that Doom basically took Reed’s family wholecloth.  I get it, Victor, you always were second best...but sloppy second best?  Come on, bro! Show some self-respect!

Grey: I was half expecting the Illuminati in the ship, so I was actually pleasantly surprised to see the Cabal go on a murder spree. Just like I really liked that the first Reed we see is Ultimate Asshole Reed.

But seriously, what is it with everyone wanting Reed’s wife? Doom wants her, if Namor were in charge he’d have her, come on guys, do better than stealing Reed’s woman. Oh well, at least Namor would have a case, Doom always seems like a creepy stalker when he obsesses on Sue.

Maillaro: I also thought that Esid Rubic’s art was a lot cleaner on this issue.  I wonder if he had a lot more lead time here than he did on issue 1.  Even the females actually looked like females which is a huge step in the right direction.  I was dreading seeing his version of A-Force…but he seemed to be an entirely different (BETTER) artist here than in the first issue.

OH!  And Strange and Valeria representing the balance between science and magic that Doom has always been a part of was a clever touch.   Did you notice that one of “giants” under Battleworld looked a like like Captain America? I definitely was wondering what that all meant…

Grey: I noticed that, the Cap thing. Really, my biggest question coming out of this issue is whether or not characters are getting actual dupes. Like, if Strange if Doom’s sheriff, does that mean that there are no other Strange’s? Each Thor is just a guy with a hammer, and not actually Thor (which I like, a Thor Corps is a great idea). Is the only Venom the one in the Deadlands?

This is one of the more enjoyable Ribic issues I’ve seen in a while, completely agree there. I had half expected Secret Wars to drop and look as awkward as Infinity did.

Also, random pet peeve that pops up from time to time, but what the hell is everyone’s obsession with Jamie Braddock?

Maillaro: That actually is a damn good question.   He showed up a few times lately as an important character.  He’s like the Inhumans.  No one cares about him, but Marvel keeps trying to push him down our throats.

About the dupes, I hadn’t noticed it, but you’re right.  For the most part, we haven’t see any real overlap in characters.  I was thinking Strange might have been a special case because he was with Doom bugging the Beyonders in issue 1, but it’s been one of everyone.  Battleworld is clearly Noah’s Arc...

And what happened to Molecule Man?  Of course the obvious follow up to that is...does anyone really care that much what happened to Molecule Man…

Grey: Jamie Braddock is like asking the rhetorical question that nobody ever thinks about; “What if you had a crappy version of Maximus the Mad?”

I really wish that some of the tie ins had started dropping this week. This issue is epic in scale, but it stays so closely tied to the featured characters that Hickman doesn’t really explore the setting beyond Thor Corps, God Emperor Doom, Baron’s, Zombie Punishments, and the intrigue that lays on the other side of the ground. Which, I mean, putting it out there like that, yes, it does sound like a lot, but I would have loved to see more of what else was going on instead of focusing so heavily on Braddock.

Though Sinister. Gotta love Sinister. Headless kicker of ass.

Maillaro: Yeah, the only tie ins we got were Last Days...and there was not a lot of suspense there.  Did Magneto stop the world from being destroyed?  Uhm...we know the answer to that.  BUT, it’s a two part story, so we have to wait for another issue to find out...spoilers...he fails.

Next week, we have a lot of tie-ins landing all at once….many of them $5 a pop.

So, out of 5, what are we rating this one?  I’m leaning towards a 3.  Huge improvement, but still the dry work I expect from Hickman.  This could be so much fun, but we’re still kind of dragging in grimdark land.

Grey: You know, if I were still reviewing for Nexus I’d probably have babbled some excuse to give this an 8/10 based entirely on the fact that we had Headless Kicker of Ass Sinister, but you know what I’ve found since I quit reviewing books full time?

When I’m not looking for pluses or minuses, I get a more legit feel for the book. I’m with you on the 3. It’s a fun book given the setting, but Hickman still finds a way to make the whole thing so verbose that you can’t really enjoy it like you should.

And Marvel can suck it with all of these five dollar books. People wanted to rally about Batman getting a price hike for one arc, but nobody says a damn word when Marvel makes five bucks one of their new standards for….shit. It’s not even sensible! Half of the Secret Wars books are four bucks, and half are five, WHAT’S THE DIFFERENCE?!?!?! Are the five dollar ones supposed to be special or something? Or did Marvel just tag that price on the “money” issues that they knew their readers would buy anyway?

Greedy wallet gouging bastards.


Mike - 3/5

Grey -  3/5

Convergence #6 by Jeff King, Scott Lobdell, Ed Benes, and Eduardo Pansica

Summary: On New-52 Earth, the Justice League, Justice League United, Red Lanterns and others are monitoring a strange situation.  Telos’ world seems to be trying to push it way into their universe.  They stand ready for whatever happens next.

On Telos’ world, Deimos says that anyone who is loyal to him will be saved, everyone who stands against him, their cities will be destroyed.

Heroes across the world start to work together, united under Pre-Flashpoint Superman.  Superman tells Earth-2 Dick Grayson that he is the only one who can reach out to Telos to help resolve everythng.  

Superman and the heroes go to confront Deimos, and they find Deimos has built up his own army of those who are willing to serve him in order to save their own cities.

Maillaro: I was actually really thrown by the opening of this book.  For the last 6 weeks, other than a handful of late books like Superman, Justice League and Batman, we’ve pretty much only have been on Telos’ world the last six weeks.  This issue starts with the New-52 DC Universe seeing Telos world trying to push it’s way into the New-52 universe.

I don’t want to quite say I completely forgot that Telos’ world was entirely separate from the New-52l….but yeah, I had sort of forgotten until we saw the characters.  

Maillaro: I always saw it as existing outside of the multiverse, but that’s just because of the Vanishing Point stuff from Booster’s Future’s End issue. Now, what is interesting to me is if this world, which I presume will play host to the upcoming Earth 2 Society book, winds up staying in this universe. I mean, we know nothing good happens if they all share one planet, but is one universe fine?

Maillaro: For me as a fan, I think I would be happy with one universe.  Or at least DC be more willing to have series and stories set in “alternate times of the DC Universe.” One thing that really came out of this issue of Convergence for me was just a big reminder how much I miss Pre-Flashpoint Superman.  In Convergence 6, when Supes is going around inspiring the other heroes, this is the Superman I have always been a fan of.  I understand it would be confusing to have two Supermen running around...but I would LOVE Jurgens to be able to write stories about this Superman and Lois with their new child after Convergence.

Grey: Amen to that, brother. Don’t forget, that’s my Superman. I grew up with Dan writing Supes, hell, that was my first comic. I don’t think you need the entire old DCU around, but it really wouldn’t hurt to do quarterly issues or anthology books. I mean, did you read Titans? They fixed Cry for Justice! I want to read that book with Roy having his happy ending! That’s all I’ve wanted ever since that abomination known was Rise of Arsenal.

Maillaro:  Hell, for me, I was just happy to see Warlord and his cast again, though most of them didn’t make it out of issue 5 alive.  Deimos as the big bad was an unexpected surprise.  Granted, that does go against my many complaints over the years about DC constantly recycling old villains people hadn’t thought about in decades (Superboy Prime, Krona, Black Hand, etc), but I kind of thought it worked here.  Purely bias on my part.

And I liked Deimos’ army of heroes who were willing to join up with him to save their own worlds, though I am not sure they all worked based on the tie-ins. Flashpoint Wonder Woman made sense...Kingdom Come Superman?  Not so much.  He spent an entire issue convincing Superboy to do the job so they could work together to stop Telos...and now he ends up working with Deimos, who is probably even worse.

Grey: I admit that I always wind up lost and confused when Warlord references start up, this happened back when Gail was writing Secret Six, as well. Pretty much my only reference point for Warlord is that JLU with Supergirl and Stargirl feuding in Skartaris. I have no real problem with the recycling of old under-utilized villains, so long as it’s done well (read: anytime Geoff does it).

The army of heroes amused me, I mean, yes, it made sense, but like you said, KC Superman isn’t exactly going to kneel before a tyrant and take orders. Hell, I’m honestly shocked that Flashpoint Wonder Woman didn’t immediately try to cut his head off.

Convergence is way more fun than it has any right to be.

Maillaro:  Exactly that!  I think that is my biggest issue with Secret Wars. You have Convergence, which seems to go out of it’s way just to be real fun.  And Secret Wars, which in many ways is telling a similar story, but keeping it so serious and dark.  I have no doubt some of the Secret Wars tie-ins are going to be a lot of fun, but Hickman doesn’t seem to have that setting.  

Grey: I expect the tie ins to capture the lost fun of the event, since having read Hickman for years, I’m not sure he knows how to be fun. But that’s a problem, I mean, you’ve got this awesome pure fun and awesome concept that is being played out as deathly serious. Convergence has that same feel behind it, but it’s found a way to be fun and exciting at the same time. I mean, the endgame is supposed to be thousands of people die, but it doesn’t have a doom clock. It has the hope that everyone we’ve ever given a damn about makes it out alright.

Maillaro:  Even the tie-ins mostly seem to lean that way.   A lot of them seem to end with the characters willing to work together for the greater good.  You know.  ACTING LIKE HEROES!

I thought Convergence had a slow start, but as it’s rolled on, I’ve enjoyed it more and more.  I’d give this issue a solid 4.5 out of 5.  I had typed a 4...but those Superman scenes made me creep it up some.  You know, the exact crime you warned about in our Secret Wars review…  

Grey: Hahaha, you know my pain! Early Convergence was absotively lame, but the past few issues of the core mini have really turned it around, and it’s become a book I look forward to every week. Superman with Dick Grayson was the best part of the issue, far and away, but it was just so damn refreshing to see the big battle royal boil down to “Good vs. Evil”, because I was really waiting for some moral ambiguity to make the last few issues painful. I’m going with the 4.5 as well, this book is just plain fun, and Marvel could learn a thing or two about how to pace their tossed together at the last minute events (AvX and Axis, I’m looking at you) from it.


Mike - 4.5/5

Grey -  4.5/5

Magneto #18 (Secret Wars: Last Days) by Cullen Bunn and Paul Davison

Summary: The issue starts with Magneto talking to Polaris about all the regrets he has in terms of their relationship.  Lorna says that he sucked at parenting.  The shot pulls back to review that this conversation is happening as Earth is about to be destroyed by the final Incursion. Magneto believes that he can stop the incursion and save both Earths.  Polaris warns that it will kill him, and Magneto decides that it’s worth it.

While this is going on, we get a few flashbacks establishing the long history between Namor and Magneto.  It is revealed that a few weeks before this final incursion, Namor had reached out to Magneto and said that he would be Earth’s last hope.

Polaris tries to help him as Magneto’s cloned Marauders work to save people.  Sentinels from Ultimate Earth attack Magneto and Polaris as the issue ends.

Short Review:  I mostly liked this comic, though it was a little all over the place.  The Namor flashbacks felt strange and out of place.   It was also really weird to see Magneto struggling to save Earth, especially since by now, we already know that he failed from Secret Wars 1 and 2.  This is even odder since this story is to be continued.  Even if Magneto and Polaris survive the Sentinels, we already know Earth “dies.”   But I did like the character moments in this issue, especially with Polaris and the Marauders.  

Score: 3.5/5

Convergence: Aquaman #2 by Tony Bedard And Cliff Richards

Summary: Aquaman is working with the staff of STAR Labs to defend the place from another attack from Deathblow.  Deathblow manages to sneak in through the bathroom in the subbasement.  Deathblow kills guards and scientists trying to distract Aquaman.  Aquaman manages to get the scientists to safety and flood the lab to get an advantage over Deathblow.  Deathblow manages to activate a security system STAR Labs created just in case they needed to subdue Aquaman.  It dehydrates the lab and Aquaman weakening him.  Deathblow is ready to finish Aquaman off, when one of the STAR labs scientists reminds Aquaman that blood is very similar to water.  He slices Deathblow open, and the blood refreshes Aquaman enough to defeat Deathblow.  Both Deathblow and his home city of San Diego fade away after Aquaman wins.

Short Review: There were some real interesting elements to this issue, especially in terms of how STAR Labs views superhumans.  The fight between Aquaman and Deathblow was pretty brutal, and the end with Aquaman using blood as water was damn creative.  I’ve read a lot of Aquaman, and I’ve never seen him pull off that trick. But, I had a major problem with how willing Deathblow was to kill innocents to get what he wanted.  Maybe he was always that way, but it feels real out of place these days.   I found the Convergence episodes that dealt with moral crises much more interesting than hero fighting other dimension “villain.”  And I had no choice but to think of Deathblow that way.

Score: 3.5/5

Convergence: Batman: Shadow of the Bat #2 by Larry Hama and Rick Leonardi

Summary: Batman and Azbats are fighting Wetworks in San Diego.  Wetworks has home field advantage, but the two Batmen are definitely giving them a run for their money.  Wetworks is forced to regroup.  Batman and Azbats set up in an aircraft carrier that many civilians are using as a refugee camp.  They meet Bethany Rodriquez and her son.  Batman wants to do everything he can to protect both cities.  He’s willing to work with Wetworks, but they seem willing to sacrifice everyone on the carrier just to save the rest of the city.  Bethany offers to help Batman and Azbats.  The Batmen are able to use hit and run tactics to keep the advantage.  Finally, Azbats threatens to kill everyone if Wetworks won’t listen to reason.  Az convinces them to surrender and work together to stop Telos.  While Batman and Wetworks go after Telos, Azbats decides to stay and protect San Diego.

Short Review:  Hama is so good at “military” stories.  The many tactics Batman and Azbats used to match with the more powerful enemies seemed authentic and really made for a good read.  BUT, I am still not loving the Wildstorm characters being so willing to hurt innocents to win the day.  It’s even odder here, since Azbats was always a little hardcore himself.  This story might have been better if they showed that parallel more.  Instead, you have Wetworks looking like real assholes.

Score: 3.5/5

Convergence: Catwoman #2 by Justin Gray and Ron Randall

Summary: Kingdom Come Batman confronts Catwoman, and she runs away.  Batman is trying to connect with Alfred to track Telos, but the technology on this world isn’t advanced enough to do that.  Catwoman hits Batman with an EM grenade that temporarily shuts down his armor.  While it is rebooting, he tries to distract her by talking.  In the process, they seem to find some middle ground.  She tries to get him to work with her; he says that she’s too trusting.  Before he can act on that, Intergang goods arrive.  They want to ensure Metropolis survives, so they offer to help her defeat Batman.  She refuses, and Batman and Catwoman work together to take out Intergang. And then heavily armed citizens arrive planning to kill Batman to save their city.  Catwoman tries to stop them, and she’s accidentally shot.  As she is dying, she gets Batman to agree to protect both cities.

Short Review:  WTF? I know Suicide Slum is supposed to be a tough area, but all the Metropolis citizens coming out with guns just felt like a little much to me.  I was really liking that book until that very moment.  It just seemed like a huge stretch to try and make a point.  And all it cost was Catwoman getting shot.

Score: 3.5/5

Convergence: Justice League International #2 by Ron Marz and Mike Manley

Summary: JLI is matched up against several Kingdom Come heroes led by Wonder Woman.  Both sides seem reluctant to fight, but both also want to keep their cities safe.  JLI Blue Beetle decides to try and talk sense into them.  Kingdom Come Wonder Woman listens, but she’s seen enough loss, she won’t lose her world’s Metropolis. She asks him to surrender, but he refuses.  He does request that they take the battle outside the city, which she agrees too.   During the battle, Beetles meets his Kingdom Come counterpart.  They both agree to not fight each other.  Telos sends his drones after then, but the convenient Earthquake drops rocks on them.  They return to find the Kingdom Come heroes have won.  Wonder Woman asks Beetle for his surrender, which he reluctantly gives.  Defeated, the JLI return home and start to plan to go after Telos.  Beetle is then hit with a bucket of water and finds a note from Booster Gold wishing him Happy Birthday.

Short Review: I liked the scene with Beetle talking to Wonder Woman a lot.  Actually, it was probably the best scene in this week’s Convergence issues.  It showed clearly what each side was fighting for and both sides managed to look heroic.  We haven’t gotten a lot of that in Convergence. And I loved the two Blue Beetles trying to make each other laugh with dumb jokes to keep from freaking out.  It just felt perfectly suited to a JLI story.  And then it ends with Booster doing a prank to lighten up the dark mood.  It was all just perfect.

Score: 5/5

Convergence: Superboy #2 by Fabian Nicieza and Karl Moline

Summary: Superboy fights Kingdom Come Superman doing a lot of damage to Metropolis.  Kingdom Come Red Robin and Flash are rushing around to save civilians. Superman asks Superboy to surrender so they can work together.  Superboy refuses, using his tactile telekinesis to surprise attack Superman.  Superboy insists that he’s fighting to save his city, but Superman says that is not what a real hero would do.  Flash and Red Robin join the fight.  Dubbilex realizes the escalation of the fight will destroy Metropolis in 30 minutes.  Superboy refuses to fail his city, determined to live up to the real Superman’s reputation.  Superman sees that world’s Lois which distracts him.  Superboy throws a rock at him, and Lois is hurt in the crossfire.  Superboy realizes this fight will only cause more harm than good, so he lets Superman knock him out.  Superman and Red Robin both admire his courage and consider him a hero worthy of calling himself Superman.

Short Review: I loved the characterization of Superboy here.  This was a character that never really got a lot of respect, but Nicieza did him a lot of justice here.  I was a little annoyed at the Kingdom Come characters’ arrogance that they were the only ones who could really save the day...but I have to admit, it definitely fits.

Score: 4/5

Convergence: Green Lantern and Parallax #2 by Tony Bedard and Ron Wagner

Summary: Princess Fern asks Kyle about Parallax.  Kyle explains he’s a big threat to her city of Electropolis.  They try to warn Electropolis, but the call won’t go through. Parallax is demolishing the city.  Kyle decides to go to Electropolis to stop him.  Princess Fern is ordered to attack the now unprotected Metropolis.

Kyle tries to reason with Hal.  Hal locks him in “construct” and sends him back to Metropolis.  Hal is determined to destroy Electropolis and get Telos’ attention.  When Kyle gets back to Metropolis, he sees Princess Fern continuing the attack on Metropolis, so he has to stay and stop her, forcing him to have to leave Parallax to destroy Electropolis.  Telos soon announces that Electropolis has been eradicated by Parallax and Princess Fern and her army fade away.

Short Review:  This comic seemed to change the rules of Convergence a little too fluidly.  It is supposed to be a fight between champions, not “Let’s see who can wipe out each’s other’s city faster.”  I also thought that the characters, especially the Electropolis characters were a little too eager to stab people in the back.   And there was a huge story flaw.  The heroes couldn’t warn Electropolis about Parallax...but  Electropolis could still call Princess Fern to tell her to destroy Metropolis.  Just too much about this one that bothered me to give it a good score...

Score: 3/5